Protecting the Muara Angke Wildlife Reserve: West Java

The morning sunshine is unable to penetrate the thick pidada trees (Sonnieratia caseolaris) in Muara Angke Wildlife Reserve. If you keep quiet, you can hear strange “kro-wak, kro-wak” calls coming from the thick mangroves (Nypa fruticans). If you remain still and pay close attention to the mangrove’s stems, you will be able to spot the source of the calls; a white breasted water hen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) with its gray plumage and striking white face, throat and breast — hence its name. The bird rummages through the mangroves and wades in the water, where it forages for food.

Other water fowl can also be seen at the reserve; little black cormorants (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris), gray herons (Ardea cinerea), cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis) and even a rare javan coucal (Centropus nigrorufus) as Ani Suswantoro writes.

The reconstruction of a wooden bridge at the reserve began two months ago and is now complete, thanks to the hard work of Flora Fauna International (FFI) Indonesia in cooperation with Jakarta’s Natural Resource Conservation Center (BBKSDA).

“Two architects from Central Java, Okky and Herman, helped us free of charge with the bridge design. The Department of Forestry financed the 843-meter-long bridge, which cost Rp 4 billion, from its 2007 budget. In the future, we hope to extend it to the protected forest,” said Frank Momberg, FFI’s Asia-Pacific regional director of development.

“The bridge is made of merbau and mengkirai woods, which will last more than 20 years. We implanted the poles into a solid base approximately three to four meters below the surface. We guarantee it will be long-lasting and sturdy,” said Amri, the construction supervisor.

Visitors who wish to enter Muara Angke Wildlife Reserve must obtain written permission from the BBKSDA office on Jl. Salemba in Central Jakarta. But arrangements to issue letters on site to sightseers are currently being discussed.

Muara Angke Wildlife Reserve has many important roles; it is a natural scientific laboratory, a rainwater absorption area and an extraordinary recreational site.

Where else in crowded and hectic Jakarta can people stroll along a nicely built bridge, enjoy the morning breeze and admire nature’s beauty?

Visitors to the reserve are advised to walk slowly, remain quiet and avoid wearing brightly colored clothing in order to get the most out of observing the wildlife and minimize disturbances to the natural surroundings. Visitors are also advised to bring a camera and binoculars and to sit or crawl when observing animals at the reserve.

Volunteers from the wetland conservation non-governmental organization Jakarta Green Monster, Wawan and Erik, are always on standby at the reserve station to take visitors for a rubber boat ride through the surrounding forest.

“When the propeller is strangled by submerged waste and chokes the engine, people can see first-hand how serious the waste problem here is. Hopefully, people will be prompted to care more for the reserve,” said Hendra Aquan, from Jakarta Green Monster.

He added garbage at the reserve had been greatly reduced through regular clean-up campaigns conducted by BBKSDA and volunteers from FFI and Jakarta Green Monster, as well as students and members of the public concerned for the reserve. However, he said unless the habit of throwing garbage in the rivers is curbed, the condition would only worsen.

“Angke is very important in many ways. The mangroves along the shore prevent abrasion and act as a tsunami defense and the fish use the mangroves as a breeding site.

“It is also a valuable natural laboratory for students. Many birds forage and breed here. Kingfishers make their unique nests in mud mounds, others like the bar-winged prinia (Prinia familiaris), flyeater (Gerygone sulphurea) and the javan coucal build their nests in the shrubs or trees.

“Considering Angke’s importance to nature and humans alike, it is imperative we safeguard it,” said Ady Kristanto from the Jakarta Bird Watcher Community, who is also a Jakarta Green Monster volunteer.

Despite the uniqueness of Angke and the important role it plays, it still faces very serious threats due to water pollution.

Its position as the estuary of two rivers — Angke River and Ciliwung River — makes Angke a dumping ground for the never-ending flow of garbage. Worn-out mattresses and refrigerators, plastic bags, toys, baby diapers and all manner of other waste can be seen floating in the estuary.

“Celebrities such as Nicholas Saputra, Indra Bekti and Abang Jakarta have joined in previous clean-up campaigns. We hope the presence of public figures (like these) will attract more public attention and care for Angke,” Moberg said.

By rebuilding the bridge, FFI and all concerned parties hope more people will come and enjoy Angke, get the most out of it and feel a sense of belonging.

To anticipate the impact of a rush of visitors to the reserve, which would disturb the animals and peaceful surroundings, a quota system will be applied.

“We will post a forest police officer at the entrance gate to monitor the situation. The officer will close the gate once the visitor quota is reached,” said Jati, a BKSDA officer tasked with mangrove forest conservation in North Jakarta, Rambut Island, Bokor Island and Untungjawa Island.

A healthy and flourishing Muara Angke Wildlife Reserve would, of course, benefit all.